As always, it’s the small things that get under your skin isn’t it? For the last couple of years, as I’ve descended the stairs I’ve been aware of a patch of carpet on our landing that has been getting thinner and thinner. Last week, it finally wore through. Of course the £1,000 plus that will be required to replace it is one of the reasons that I’ve been ignoring it- but it’s more than that. The hole in the carpet is a portent of a new life phase that is approaching. Our children are growing away and I think some of you will understand how I feel.
A little bit of background
You see when we moved into this house back in 2004, I felt as though my ship was in full sail. I had my three little boys then aged 7, 2 and 10 months, I was commuting three days a week to Marks &Spencer HQ in London and Mr MC had his dream project of a house to restore. These were the pre-recession days of house regeneration programmes and he had waited a long time for the right opportunity.
The previous owners had been fans of high Victoriana. The old Georgian farmhouse that we had bought was gasping for breath beneath layers of Anaglypta and Artex, faux pine cladding and ornate plastic cornicing. So as I headed off to catch the train to London on Monday nights, Mr MC would wave me off with his sleeves rolled up, ready to unmask the house’s secrets.
One Thursday I arrived home to find he had worked without stopping until the whole place was stripped bare. Walls, ceilings, carpets – even some of the floorboards had gone, leaving just the joists for us to balance on. “A blank canvas is what we need,” he told me, blanching only slightly when I reminded him of the christening we had planned in three days’ time. London friends were making their way up to stay with us, along with legions of aunties and other relations who were looking forward to seeing our forever home. “At least nothing can be damaged,” was his consoling remark, as I wondered how I was going to present the elaborate catering that I had planned from my London hotel.
Although we were exhausted, I don’t think either of us has ever felt more alive than we did then. I haven’t even mentioned the new rescue puppy that had joined our family too – the level of chaos in our echoing house was magnificent.
The morning of the christening dawned, long overdue (according to my mum) because the youngest was now one year old. A fearless child, his daily routine was to shoot down the stairs on his nappy-padded behind in the style of an Olympic bobsledder. Of course his tender years had not taught him to anticipate the difference between carpeted stairs and bare boards. As he toddled away in the special Dior outfit that I had bought from Selfridges, we noted that he resembled a small porcupine – with an array of wooden splinters protruding from his bottom. A stair carpet rose to the top of the list.
There was no time to find an alternative venue so the christening party was held at home. The aunties were perplexed but fortunately no elderly bones were broken as we cantilevered them across the various areas that had no floor. My sister glanced over some carpet samples that had been gathering dust and pointed out her favourite. By this point my brain was too full to care so, before I boarded the train again the following day, I instructed Mr MC to order it.
The track of our lives
And so, the stair carpet was the first safe haven in a house that took years to restore. Of course the staircase is the main artery of every home and ours has seen life played out in full. It has been the launch pad for record breaking Hot Wheels tracks and lunar landing craft; home of the naughty step and the place to sit and wait. It has been jumped down in glee and stormed up in anger; descended on days of both sadness and joy. My parents trod that carpet many times, as have countless feet of little friends who still come now, albeit with their size thirteens.
The boys have a lifelong habit of jumping down the last two steps to the landing and spinning as they turn. This is the spot that has now worn through. “Just think – the next carpet probably won’t even wear out,” said Mr MC when he saw me looking at the hole wistfully. And of course that is the very worst thing he could have said – because that is the point. If life follows their plans, in four years’ time the bobsledding baby will, any day now, be following his brothers by heading down those stairs… out through the door and… off to university. And this house which has buzzed and bubbled with life since the day we moved in will fall still and silent for a while.
I know we’ll be fine and, after a while, we might even like it that way. And of course they’ll come home and back up those stairs when they need to, bringing new people, heralding new chapters of life for us all. But somehow the hole in the stair carpet feels aptly symbolic. It is more than just a stair carpet, it augurs the approach of a huge bend in our road.
For anyone who is facing a parting…
Some of you have been in touch over the last few weeks with ‘stair carpets’ of your own. As much loved children head off to university or just back to school without glancing back, it’s a time of mixed feelings – of joy at their success and shock at just how quickly the time has gone. In the end, it’s right that they move on – but maybe we can help each other out. Do leave me a comment on this one. I’d love to know what it’s been like for you to let go – regardless of whether it’s happening right now or it was years ago.
I’ll be back on Friday (hopefully) with the launch of the Midlifechic Boutique.